Robobeat is the rhythm-based roguelite shooter you've been waiting for

5.17.2024
By Steven T. Wright, Contributor

Genre fusions happen all the time in gaming, but some mix better than others. Robobeat is the latest addition to the budding rhythm-based first-person shooter genre—and frankly, it might be the only one you'll ever need to play.

Robobeat is a deeply impressive project that takes a dozen amazing things you love about video games—trick systems, bullet time, ground pounds, you name it—and mixes them together into a cohesive experience.

Described as a "rhythm shooter roguelite" by solo developer Simon Fredholm, Robobeat gives you a revolver, a cassette tape, and lets you figure out the rest. The basic idea is straightforward enough: shoot the bad guys to the beat. While simple in theory, it's a lot harder to maintain your "beat streak" when you're double-jumping, rail-grinding, and 360-spinning your way through hordes of twitchy enemies and blizzards of projectiles.

The options menu strongly recommends that you play with a keyboard and mouse, and it's easy to see why. Like Turbo Overkill, Robobeat is a new-school "boomer shooter" through and through, demanding mastery of movement mechanics honed by more than 20 years of Quake worship.

Teleporting sword-wielding baddies and hammer guys who dish out area-of-effect slams make staying on the ground a dodgy prospect in Robobeat. Thankfully, you can take advantage of an array of jump pads, rails, and walls to stay airborne—once you get a hang of the rhythm, that is. Robobeat even gives you points for performing tricks, like headshotting enemies from afar while airborne or doing a 360-degree spin beforehand. The more stylishly you play, the better you'll do.

Fredholm describes the development of Robobeat as an iterative process, with him slowly adding his own ideas, as well as some inspired by his favorite games. "For example, a friend suggested the rhythm part early on, and from that, the weapon combos just made sense, which inspired the tricks, and so on," says Fredholm.
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Robobeat features a plethora of cool ideas, sometimes to an almost overwhelming extent. For example, in one run, I obtained a modifier that replaced the genre-staple slide with a racing-style drift that pushed enemies away, a shift that allowed me to try a more ground-heavy playstyle—until I died three rooms later, of course.

Speaking of death, Robobeat strikes a good balance with its difficulty, especially if you're an experienced shooter fan. Like many roguelites, it features both a run-specific resource and a persistent resource (here known as "blips") that slowly unlocks more weapons and features. You'll also find blueprints and cassette tapes that grant you permanent unlocks through each run, and your progress is segmented by randomized individual levels that you can try again and again.

Though you've definitely seen some of these ideas in other games, Robobeat has its own unique twists on genre-staple mechanics. For example, the usual reload key ('R') instead charges your weapons, boosting their damage for a single shot. If you charge after a parry, the resulting shot will do even more damage—or at least, that's what the tutorial suggests. Sadly, my reflexes are insufficient to pull this off much during Robobeat's frenetic combat, but I'm sure that the legions of ULTRAKILL speedrunners out there will use it to great effect.

As a one-man-show developer, Fredholm had to overcome a lot of challenges to make Robobeat the polished game it is today. For example, during development, he had to figure out a way to connect the rooms in a random way without showing the seams of the experience or impacting performance.

"Whenever the player enters one of those small corridors between rooms, I teleport the player and the whole corridor instantly to another position [which is] now connected to another room," says Fredholm. "Many potential things can go wrong…since the player can for example slide/dash/blink at the same time, and player velocity needs to be rotated and repositioned. There was a lot of math, which I hate. But it ended up working in the end."

Robobeat's weapons and abilities also find a nice halfway point between creative zaniness and functionality. My personal favorite is a ping pong paddle that you have to "pre-fire" with a mouse click before it unleashes three highly damaging projectiles, the final one exploding. My go-to in crowded rooms is a lightning strike that launches all nearby enemies into the air for critical hits, and I eventually figured out that the optional teleport really helps with some of the more mobile enemies.

That said, I tended to stick with iterations of the default revolver for a majority of my runs, as its ability to deal critical damage with headshots proved extremely useful through the early game.
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Besides its core gameplay, perhaps the most impressive element of Robobeat is its inclusion of hassle-free custom music support. The game features quite a few murderous, high-intensity songs in the Hotline Miami tradition, and you regularly find new ones by picking up cassette tapes scattered through the levels.

But if (like me) you want to blast hammer-wielding sickos to Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise" (or, perhaps more aptly, Slayer's Reign in Blood) you can make that happen, and it's truly a killer feature. Most other rhythm-based shooters only support custom songs through mods, so it's really nice to have it built-in on launch day.

Your choice of song isn't just cosmetic. The beats-per-minute or BPM (naturally) determines both how fast you can fire and the speed of your enemies. This tempo decision sort-of functions as a difficulty selector, but I personally found faster BPMs easier to handle, since the quicker you kill the bad guys, the fewer projectiles they can vomit in your general direction. Your mileage may vary, however—particularly if you're better at air dodging than I am.

As a whole, Robobeat is an easy recommendation for FPS fans who are looking for a new twist on acrobatic trick-shooting action. If you've blasted your way through games like Tower of Guns or Metal: Hellsinger, this is a no-brainer. However, we aren't responsible for the hours of sleep you may lose here—it might give you a bad case of one-more-run-itis.

Robobeat is now available on the Epic Games Store.